Semi-finalist Q&A: Bamboo Bike Studio

Bamboo Bike Studio is a working laboratory that develops natural materials science, design, and engineering, educational programs that create a more conscious, participatory consumer-product relationship, and sustainable personal transportation alternatives. Bamboo is our current focus material, and the bicycle is our focus form of transportation.

Information from their grant application is available here. Read below for more, and if you have questions for our semi-finalists don't hesitate to ask them in the comments section.

Also, don't forget to cast your vote! YOUR vote will determine which entrepreneurs most deserve to be amongst the finalists.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

BBS co-founder Marty Odlin conceived the idea of a bamboo bicycle after visiting China and witnessing the power and scale of bamboo use in structural scaffolding; when he got back to the US, he wanted to build his own bike, and realized bamboo would be a perfect and easy material to work with. At the same time, Sean Murray and Justin Aguinaldo were working with the Bamboo Bike Project at Columbia University. When Marty moved to NYC and started working at Columbia, they all met at the BBP, and the idea for the Bamboo Bike Studio, teaching students how to build bamboo bikes domestically, in order to fund the development of international bamboo bike factories, was born.

What makes your business unique? Why do you think it will be a success?

The BBS is unique because it is the only organization in the United States currently teaching the practice of building your own bike, out of bamboo, in two days. Beyond this characteristic, the dualism between empowering people to have a more inspired and direct relationship with their products domestically, and the utility and development potential of that same product internationally is a strong and unique quality. The bike you build with us in America uses the same process and technologies that Africans will benefit from in their own country; we connect DIY culture with sustainable transportation in developing nations. Additionally, as the economic slowdown continues, and awareness about the environmental need for alternative, sustainable transportation options increases, bicycling is only going to become more and more popular in the US, and internationally; our market will be growing and growing each year.

What are some of your top business-related accomplishments, or business lessons learned?

The top business lesson we've learned is when to say no to an opportunity. For a long time we chased after every possible angle and pitch and sale. We ended up chasing our tails most of the time, and nearly burnt ourselves out. We've regrouped and now work with much more discipline on our core business which is ultimately providing the best customer experience possible.

Why should the Idea Cafe regulars vote for you?

Hopefully voters will recognize the unique, authentic, and compelling possibilities of coupling domestic sustainable transportation and consumer participation development with international sustainable development and transpiration advocacy. Or, in less words, the magic that occurs each time one of our students realizes that they have built their own bike, with their own hands, and ride off on it— knowing that they've not just made a significant accomplishment for themselves, but contributed to a larger goal of improving lives around the world via bicycling.


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